Featured Artist interview with pianist Steven Masi – December 2018
How did you get started in music? Did you always know you would be a pianist?
I was seven years old and home sick from school. In those days, there was a program on New York television called Million Dollar Movie. I happened to be watching, and they played an old Hollywood biopic (A Song to Remember, 1945) about Chopin. I was swept away, and despite the fact that I wasn’t a consumptive, I immersed myself in the piano. I never stopped.
Who influenced you the most to become a musician?
Cornell Wilde (actor). While the Chopin movie was a complete fabrication, his portrayal of Chopin was enough to inspire a love of music that lasted a lifetime.
When did you move to Leonia? Has life in Leonia had an influence on your life in music?
I’ve lived in Leonia for almost ten years. I love the town and the people in it. I think the happiness of my life with my family has been the motivating force behind everything I do.
Do you have a personal philosophy that you express when you perform, or apply when you teach students to play the piano?
I would like to give the audience the idea that they have just heard a piece of music that expresses what we all feel and experience in the most eloquent way. If I can give in my limited way some idea of the immense beauty of the greatest music ever written, then I’m happy.
What is the most rewarding experience you had as a pianist?
I’ve been lucky and have had too many great experiences to single out just one. The most fun was a recent performance for my sixty-fifth birthday of Mozart’s K.459 (Piano Concerto No.19 in F Major) and Beethoven’s Piano Fourth Concertos played with an orchestra made up of friends, mostly from Leonia. That was pure joy.
What inspires you, or where do you find inspiration?
The genius of Fred Astaire. I think of him as the supreme artist. He worked harder at attaining beauty than anybody. Now, I don’t want or care to see how hard someone is working. Fred made it seem effortless, a moment’s inspiration. He created magic. And it wasn’t just his dancing. No other singer inspired so many great composers so eager to write for him. His rhythmic inflection, his impeccable phrasing, and his way with a lyric that gave life to some of the greatest songs ever written. For me, he never fades.
What are you working on currently?
I am working on a recording Brahms Op.117,118, and 119 coupled with new music that is inspired by these pieces. I also am preparing a series of concerts of the complete Beethoven Violin and Piano Sonatas with Elisabeth Small. A recording of the Beethoven Cello Sonatas with my great friend, Barbara Mallow, is also in the offing.
Your recently completed recordings of Beethoven Piano Sonatas — about 12 hours of solo piano music. While working on the recordings, did you also maintain a schedule of concerts and teaching?
The Beethoven records took five years to make. I did maintain a full schedule of performances and teaching. It was fairly strenuous, but I loved it. My longtime friend Joe Patrych was the engineer, and we had a great time working together.
When not seated at the piano, what is your favorite thing to do?
When not at the piano, I engage in my other love, baseball. I played seriously as a young man, and now I have the thrill of watching my son, Aidan, play.